Caressed By Ice (Psy-Changeling 3) - Page 35

She hit the ground hard despite the thick layer of snow. Blinking away the strange disorientation that made it hard to focus, she got up, shook her head, and prepared to run...but found the landscape startlingly unfamiliar. She was no longer anywhere near the hyenas. Safe, she was safe. But Judd was nowhere to be seen.

"Where are you?" She scanned the area around her, but the snow lay unbroken. He hadn't passed through here. It took real effort for her to think past the wolf's need to go to Judd's aid, to help defend their territory, but she hunkered down to wait.

As things stood, Judd knew where she was and could find her more easily if she didn't move. It was common sense. That didn't make her any less scared for him. He was out there alone against a pack of hyenas - hyenas who should've been too terrified to come anywhere near SnowDancer land. Their boldness told her they were packing weapons more dangerous than simply claws and teeth. "Come on, Judd," she whispered. "Where are you?"

Judd was on the verge of flaming out - what he'd done with Brenna had taken a massive amount of energy. He briefly considered teleporting a gun from the cabin using what power remained, but realized the act would wipe him out and leave him a sitting duck. In human terms, he was running on fumes. An hour at most and he'd collapse on the psychic plane, his abilities useless for the next twenty-four hours or more. The physical collapse would hit a few hours after the psychic one.

If this had happened while he'd been uplinked to the PsyNet, his psychic star would've flamed red for a few seconds just before he crashed, long enough for others to notice and use to their advantage. That was why Psy went to great lengths to avoid flameouts. It left them vulnerable - while their basic shields would hold, the more sophisticated protections tended to collapse, giving enemies a near defenseless victim.

Out here, however, even his family might not notice his condition. Because of the difficulty of keeping three immature minds from inadvertently dropping out of the LaurenNet and attempting to rejoin the PsyNet, they had been training Sienna, Marlee, and Toby to stay out of the LaurenNet as much as possible. It was a hard task - living on the psychic plane as well as the physical was natural for them. But their safety had to come first.

Having circled close to the intruders, he allowed his body to lean against a tree. While the physical collapse could be held off, it would sap his energy bit by bit, so he had to conserve it where he could. That collapse itself was nothing normal. Most Psy only flamed out on the psychic level. It was the nature of his abilities that altered things for him.

It makes you vulnerable. Ming LeBon's mental voice, the voice that had shaped so much of who Judd had become. However, as it appears to be an unavoidable side effect of your abilities, I suggest you train your body to survive on the bare minimum of energy.

Judd had been fourteen at the time and in thrall to his mentor. Ming possessed one of the strongest minds he had ever seen. The senior Arrow's ability in mental combat was unparalleled, but what set Ming apart from his peers was that he'd trained his body, too. He had a deadly facility in several human disciplines, including karate and the rare form known as katana.

The Way of the Sword.

Except that it used no blades but those created by skillful use of the body, honing men to a lethal edge. Judd had studied under Ming, then later under a human teacher, spending an entire year in the freezing chill of Old Sapporo. The abandoned Japanese city was so inhospitable, it was populated only by those who wanted to push their bodies to the limit, such as the disciples of katana. Though the highly offensive martial art - developed during the Japan-Korea war over half a century ago - could be used to kill, its worth to the Psy lay in the extreme mental and physical discipline it taught.

But even katana only went so far with a Tk on the edge of a flameout. Expanding his senses, he began to collect data. He wasn't changeling so it could've been difficult for him to identify the exact species, but some of the hyenas had shifted to their animal forms. There were twenty in the scan radius and many registered as carrying weapons. He needed a closer look at those weapons.

Making a quick decision, he moved closer, using what he'd learned in Old Sapporo to check the creeping shroud of exhaustion and keep his brain functioning. Once he'd positioned himself in the direct path of one of the hyenas in human form, he leaned against another tree and did the thing that only his subdesignation could. He blurred his body, becoming effectively invisible. It had been postulated that this aspect of his ability sprang from the same core as that of the F-Psy, that he was actually bending time.

Concentrate.

Wandering thought patterns were a sign of oncoming flameout. He managed to drag his mind back under control in the nick of time. A hyena male walked past, a weapon strapped to his back and another in his arms. Pinpoint migraines began to spark behind Judd's eyelids, but he maintained the "invisibility" until the invader was well out of range. Then he focused on getting out of the hot zone without leaving a trail.

The explosion came half an hour later.

Brenna heard the bang before she saw the smoke spiral up into the sky. The urge to head in that direction was so overwhelming that she had to grit her teeth to restrain it. Her family had not raised a stupid wolf. With the snow, the blaze wouldn't accelerate. Furthermore, the wood was treated to be flame-retardant and she had neither the firepower nor the backup to take on a whole pack of those damn scavengers.

But her frustration at being so helpless wasn't the worst of it - she was scared to death that they had gotten to Judd. Then he walked out of the forest. Racing to him, she put a hand on his arm. "What happened?" She took a second look. "Judd, your eyes!" They were pure black, no whites, no irises.

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